Canning Brothers

The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.

By Janet Mathewson

"I rub my thumb into my thigh and massage the wound where I was shot at Gallipoli. It is healed now but is a constant reminder of the loss of my twin brother, Frank.

As our ship forges through the water, the sky is as flat and grey as the sea below us. The fog shrouds the English shore in the distance.I survived the horrors of Gallipoli, but following a serious bout of enteric fever, influenza, measles and a gunshot wound to my leg, I was official declared “Unfit for Service” and was sent home to Finley.

I am Les Canning and myself and my twin brother Frank enlisted when we were both 18 years old. We’d led a fairly ordinary existence till then, typical of country towns in Australia, but we very soon lost our naivety when we were sent to the front at Gallipoli. We were both lucky to stay together through most of the fighting, as most of our mates were killed. And then at Lone Pine, during the chaos of battle, Frank and I were separated. I was shot and taken to a military hospital, and became so worried because I did not know where Frank was, whether he was alive or dead. All I could pray for was that he had made it through safely. We’d never been separated before, and as time passed with no news I became frantic.

Finally I received the news that shattered my heart forever. Frank had been killed during the charge at Lone Pine. His body was never recovered, just like most of his mates killed that day.

I was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery. I feel in my heart that I share this with my Frank who was so brave right to the end of his short life. He was only 19 when he died, and deserved to share this with me.After I was shipped home as “Unfit for Service” I returned to Finley. But I couldn’t sit and not do my part, not when Frank had paid the ultimate price.

So, I re-enlisted and embarked on the next ship back to France. This means that I will again be heading into the arms of an all too likely death, but if I am killed it will mean that I will be with Frank again.

Here I am now, on a ship heading towards England, then France, hoping that my service will help in some small way.

The thought of standing on solid ground again fills my head after weeks at sea. I can only look forward, so I gather my rucksack and go forward to whatever awaits me."

Frank Canning’s final resting place is unknown, and family were informed that he is buried at Gallipoli with a headstone marked “An Unknown Australian Soldier”.

Les Canning went on to fight in France and Belgium and was awarded a Military Medal for Bravery.